From crisis to innovation: a new partnership is born

Back in April, when we were all shell-shocked with having to face daily life under quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had a meeting with our Horizons at Colorado Academy Executive Board and brought them up to speed with contingency planning for Horizons. The overarching question guiding our meeting was this: how are we going to help our Horizons students and families now and during the Summer? With the world at a standstill, our Horizons students and families, who, in the best of times, are struggling, are now faced with greater hardship—food and housing insecurity, job loss, sickness from the virus, and so much more. What could our CA community do to support them?

It was during this meeting that Head of School Dr. Mike Davis suggested we start a tutoring program between our Upper School CA students and Horizons students. Since there were many Upper School CA students who were looking for ways to fulfill their Community Impact Projects while remaining quarantined, this could be a great opportunity. For Horizons students, having the extra support of a tutor that could help with school work and academic progress could be very beneficial.

After that board meeting, we mobilized quickly. I enlisted the help of Lisa Dean, Coordinator for the Office of Admission and Financial Aid and Upper School Service Learning, and Jessica Nunez, our Horizons Family Liaison, to assist with putting the program together. Dean worked on recruiting CA tutors, Nunez assisted with outreach to Horizons families to gauge interest. Simultaneously, we worked to figure out the technology divide. Without getting into all of the details, let’s say that this was one of our biggest hurdles. By working with the CA Technology Department, we have managed to overcome this obstacle, though for some families, it is still an issue.

Tutoring in action

Horizons student Kieran Gray is being tutored remotely by CA students.

Currently we have 14 CA students tutoring 14 Horizons students in various grades, ranging from Kindergarten to Juniors. For the most part, the program has been a great success! I recently asked our tutors for their feedback. Here are a few of their responses:

Junior Kiah May says that she signed up because she really “wants to help other people.” When asked how the experience has been for her so far, Kiah says, “It has been great! I love working with Miley (Horizons Sixth Grader) and seeing her progress.” When asked about sharing a few takeaways, Kiah remarks, “I think that it has been really beneficial for me to see and understand how difficult it is to be a teacher. I have a newfound respect for them.”

Henry Chesley-Vogels, CA Junior and one of the Horizons Club presidents who has been a Horizons volunteer for many years, says, “My overarching takeaway is that many public schools have been hit hard by the pandemic. Many of these schools have struggled to continue classes. Therefore, I wanted to become a tutor in order to foster a learning environment for my students and ensure that they stay on track with their grade level of reading, writing, and math.”

From the point of view from one of our parent participants, Chris Grey, the father of Tristyn (Third Grade) and Kieran (Second Grade) says, “I think the tutoring has been extremely positive and rewarding for the boys. Henry (Chesley-Vogels) has been awesome, and I feel like the boys get great knowledge and understanding from the work Henry is providing.”

We are planning to continue with the online tutoring program next year and have it run by the Horizons Club. Horizons Club presidents Henry Chesley-Vogels and Charlotte Smith have agreed to take on this project and guide it along. We are very hopeful that more CA students and Horizons students sign on in the Fall. Bringing our communities closer has been a mutually beneficial way that we have been able to provide support for one another during this very difficult time. My hope is that these bonds continue to flourish for many years to come.